On The Limit: Heikki at the Race of Champions

On Friday at the Race of Champions in Dusseldorf, many of the competing drivers did practice laps with various cars. As you may know, a passenger always rides alongside the driver for every run throughout the weekend, whether it be competition winner, sponsor, whatever. On the practice day the passengers were the members of the media.

Neil Cole (of Dave’s sadly ended WRC coverage) is acting as pit reporter for the event, he brought a camera with him for his run alongside Heikki Kovalainen in this Porsche, which I have shamelessly stolen until he tells me off. What you should definitely do is keep checking Neil’s YouTube account because he’s uploading things all weekend.



2010 Belgian GP – Friday Pt.2

Continued from Part 1. Apologies for the long gap between posts in this series, I was moving house. I know not everyone likes the format of “we did this, then we did this” so I’ll try and shake it up a bit, but ultimately I think it is unavoidable.

Les Combes.

This wasn’t as impressive a viewing position as I’d hoped. The cars were too slow but this may have been due to them being Formula BMWs in the wet, but mainly you are so far away from the action it dilutes any sense of speed. Perhaps F1 cars in the dry are different. Perhaps I’d had enough of the incessant rain by now.

Formula BMWs at Les Combes, and the view back down the straight through the fence;

With a lull in track action I continued around the track to Rivage corner – you exit a gate at Les Combes then enter another just yards away having to scan your ticket twice, it all seemed a bit unnecessary to me, can’t they put in a path? Anyway this is where all the drunks hang out, it seemed like people had been drinking since morning and weren’t planning to stop yet – I ordered a coffee and was greeted with sarcastic jibes from the others at the counter and the servers too! Charming. Unlike some I actually wanted to remember the day and the experience of F1 cars on a live track, at these ticket prices not all of us can go every year.

No rain for a while now, the sun was even trying to break through although the track was very much still wet. It was turning into a really pleasant afternoon. I’m turning into such an old man. Looking towards Pouhon with yet more stunning views in the backdrop, the pits surrounded by the forest with the mist hanging in the air. Not a bad way to get back to nature.

Here are a few pictures from this location because it is a great place to be close to F1 cars, although I wouldn’t watch the race from here. Just the one big block of pictures in this post, don’t run away!

Great views at the top; Looking back up to the drunken happy fans; Mark Webber;

I also got a few videos at Rivage because it is a great spot to be up close to the cars, here is one of them:

A couple of lesser quality videos from the same spot are here and here until they surely get removed by copyright claim one day.

My main camera died at this point [cue cheers from the readers], I think the water got into it or the batteries died – I wasn’t impressed and had to switch to my phone so the photo quality is awful.

During the session I wandered down to Pouhon to meet Gavin and Guille who’d come over earlier in the day. They’d found shelter from the rain showers under a concrete toilet block of all things, there was a section under it which was a bit like castle ramparts, you could stand sheltered from the wind and most of the rain and still have a high up view of the track. And no before you ask, it wasn’t disgusting, the building was fully plumbed!

Pouhon corner itself was a tad underwhelming I thought, again like Les Combes this could have been down to the wet/damp track slowing the cars. Not much in the way of overtaking or of the out-and-out spectacle of speed. What you do get is a great appreciation of the way these cars take a corner so quickly particularly when Yamamoto is coming through with the back of his car constantly moving from side to side like it is about to throw him off the track – his was the only car that did this. The Red Bulls and McLarens were very much ‘planted’ through here but to be honest most of the cars were. Even the Lotus and Virgin cars didn’t look slow.



Again I was struck by how gorgeous this setting is. Look at all the trees and just the general ambience of the place. I love it. I started to get a little envious of the guys standing near me on General Admission tickets – we found unlike many Grands Prix it isn’t necessary to get a grandstand seat here.

GP2 qualifying was up next so we stuck around to watch it – cue yet another massive downpour! It had been dry for much of F1 Fp2 and even a dry line started to appear on the circuit, unfortunately for the GP2 guys the heavens opened practically as the green flag flew.

Here’s a bit of video of the very wet GP2 qualifying session.

And that was it, track sessions over apart from some GP3 and Porsche Supercup but we elected to skip those practice sessions to get home, get warm, and get dry. It isn’t possible to overstate just how wet I got that day and I think every single one of the others was just as soaked through.

Returning from Pouhon to meet up with the others we passed under Eau Rouge as the clouds closed in;

We were all agreed that despite the conditions we all loved Spa-Franchorchamps and our first day at the circuit ‘proper’, whether we walked around or stayed in the stands it was excellent. There was a lot of grumbling about the weather and the cold from practically everyone (myself very much included) and it wasn’t comfortable in the slightest, yet writing this a few months later all that truly remains in the memory is an enjoyable day trackside at one of the greatest racing venues in the world.

Even so, the chance to dry off in the warm cabin with lots of takeaway pizzas was very welcome indeed. Indeed the clothes I wore on this day were still damp on Monday when we came to pack up and leave.

Come back soon for my recap of Saturday at the Belgian GP!

I’m Watching.. MotoGP Estoril

MotoGP 2010 – Portuguese GP

Estoril, Portugal – Round 17 of 18

31st October 2010
BBC coverage

Front row: Jorge Lorenzo is on pole, with Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi alongside him.
Dani Pedrosa has returned after his Japanese GP injury but starts well down the order, it’ll be interesting to see if he can work his way through.
Ben Spies crashed on the way to the grid and injured himself, he won’t be starting.

With all the rain over the weekend so far there has been no dry practice, this is going to be a dry race yet the track seems damp and greasy.

Race Start

Fast start from Lorenzo, behind him its 5 wide into turn 1. Dovizioso has jumped up to 2nd but is passed by Hayden who now leads this 5 bike group. Espagaro is off and limping.
Midway through lap two, passing all over the place, Hayden leads! Stoner passes Dovi and Rossi until the Italian re-takes him and positions changing all the time, I can’t keep up! Into lap 3 and the order is Lorenzo, Hayden, Rossi, Dovi, Stoner.

Lap 4 – Fantastic stuff but now it is a duel, Lorenzo vs Rossi with the Ducatis of Hayden and Stoner heading the chasing group.

Rossi leads! Passes Lorenzo into the uphill chicane at turn 9.

Stoner is off! It drops out from under him and he’s into the gravel at the Parabolica. Real shame as he was up to 3rd. Pedrosa is now 7th. Huge wobble from Simoncelli on to the main straight.

News from race control – “Spies diagnosed with left ankle dislocation” – ouch.

Lap 8 and things have calmed considerably as the gaps open up. Rossi leads Lorenzo by a second and a half, with Hayden a similar gap behind, then Simoncelli leading the works Hondas of Dovizioso and Pedrosa and de Puniet is on the back of them. Edwards isn’t far behind.

Dovizioso spins up his rear wheel and is nearly thrown off his bike, he drops behind Pedrosa and de Puniet and continues.

Replay: Carlos Checa loses a place and brings the bike in to the pits to retire, Steve Parrish on commentary suggests it is ‘arm pump’, i.e. he’s not physically used to the force of squeezing the brakes on the big MotoGP bikes.

Lap 15, the Yamahas have opened a gap the length of the pit straight over Hayden. Lorenzo is very gradually catching Rossi and on the next time through the main straight he’s on him, slipstreams past into turn 1, Lorenzo leads!

Simoncelli has taken 3rd from Hayden, and now Dovizioso retakes 5th from Pedrosa. This group of four are still circulating together.

9 to go. Edwards passes de Puniet and these two have recaught the group of four ahead, big group of six now.

8 to go and Dovizioso jumps Simoncelli for 3rd, this group has been epic all race and Simoncelli takes it back again! Dovizioso finally seals the deal into turn one. While this was going on Pedrosa got shuffled to the back of the group falls away, Parrish suggests this is probably because he’s not ‘race fit’ yet. Edwards was dropped off a little too.

5 to go, Dovizioso missed the apex and Simoncelli pounced immediately, he’s back to third. Hayden is lurking but doesn’t look likely to make a pass just yet.

Lorenzo is now 5 seconds ahead of Rossi and riding away. This is a bit like the last race, front two places sealed but an epic battle for 3rd.

2 to go, Dovizioso is back into 3rd, he’s clearly the faster of the two but keeps making errors allowing Simoncelli back through – can he hold on this time?

They are fighting like dogs on the last lap.. who’s got it?

1. Lorenzo,
2. Rossi,
3….. Dovizioso in a near photo finish at the line!

Simoncelli 4th, Hayden, de Puniet, Edwards, Pedrosa, Melandri, Barbera for the top ten.


A really good race, even though the front two cleared off into the distance there was still action up and down the field. The head-to-head between Rossi and Lorenzo was excellent, and the group fighting over third was absolutely superb. A lot of MotoGP races this year have been really disappointing – now it has its mojo back!

Apologies for the lack of photo in this post, Picapp pulled their WordPress.com support and I haven’t registered for media access with anyone as yet.

Lorenzo 358; Pedrosa 236; Rossi 217; Stoner 205; Dovizioso 195; Spies & Hayden 163;

The next round is the finale at Valencia, it has already taken place (as you know) and I’ll have a little review up in a few days.

Don’t Go Away

The off-season is the ideal time for people to take a break from racing, but not me. This is when I catch up with all the things I haven’t had time for during the main season. I hope you’ll stick around because there is also plenty else happening around the racing blogosphere too.

For one thing I have been moving house over the last week, and preparing for it for a while beforehand, so my planned blog posts have been delayed – there’s a bit of a backlog now. Over the next fortnight I plan to write about:

– Saturday and Sunday at the Belgian Grand Prix;
– A few short paragraphs on all the F1 races since then;
– A few short paragraphs on the last two MotoGP races of the season;
– My day at Silverstone for the Le Mans Series;
– Some other seemingly-random stuff I’ve been watching;

After that I’ll be catchup on some racing from all over the place as I try to cut down my massive backlog of things marked ‘to be watched’. I insist upon watching it now I have it, no cheating by skipping ahead.

Then we’re into the depths of the off-season and there is the Thursday Thoughts series which will surely make a comeback in a couple of weeks, then perhaps Bloggers Swap Shop could make a return after its triumphant debut a few months ago. Be sure to check out all the various other blogs taking part in these initatives, not only when they are happening but in the meantime because there are some good posts out there.

I’m tempted to start a series of posts linking to good blog articles I find elsewhere. Jackie at VivaF1 does for F1 articles, Tony at PopOffValve does a great series on IndyCar, JOWT for junior series. I’m not aware of anyone doing it across multiple disciplines of racing. In any case, these sites and others need more links to them not just from them. The remit of this blog is to expose people to racing they might not otherwise follow, and act as a discussion place for those of us that already do. The game has done that a little, at the expense of the discussion. Time to redress the balance.

Then there are the F1 launches and tests, Dakar and soon Daytona again. It isn’t that long really.

Don’t disappear this winter – your humble bloggers aren’t.